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Robredo: Gov’t should welcome rights probe

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday said the government should welcome the call of UN human rights experts for an independent probe on the rights situation in the country if the administration had nothing to hide on its record.

“If it’s true that there are no human rights violations in our country, why should we oppose the investigation?” the Vice President said on her weekly radio show.

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Independent inquiry

Eleven independent experts, including UN Special Rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, have called on the United Nations to conduct an independent probe on the country, saying they have recorded a “staggering number of unlawful deaths and police killings” under the war on drugs launched by the Duterte administration in 2016.

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The experts also stressed that “very few independent and effective investigations” on the killings and rights violations had taken place since then.

“The government has shown no indication that they will step up to fulfill their obligation to conduct prompt and full investigation into these cases and to hold perpetrators accountable,” read the statement released on Friday.

‘Outrageous interference’

Malacañang has dismissed the call, calling it “intellectually challenged” and an “outrageous interference [in] Philippine sovereignty.”

Robredo said, however, that rejecting the call only added doubt to the government’s human rights record.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), for its part, has accused the UN human rights experts of undermining the country’s sovereignty and the credibility of multilateral dialogue.

DFA rejects call

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“We reject this call as it is being made in bad faith by parties who want to undermine domestic processes and spread disinformation, on the basis of one-sided reports coming from questionable sources,” the DFA said in a brief statement late on Saturday.

The UN rapporteurs continue to ignore the government’s side, the DFA said.

“These parties show their bias and political agenda and assail the credibility and objectivity of the human rights mechanisms as constructive platforms of dialogue between the United Nations and the member states,” the DFA said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Sunday said human rights advocates could be part of drug syndicates or were drug users themselves for pushing for an international inquiry into the unprecedented killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly drug war.

“I don’t get them. I’m beginning to suspect that these UN human rights [experts] are behind [the proliferation of] illegal drugs or they are users that’s why they are very angry about this matter,” Sotto said in a radio interview.

Protect rights workers

“There are worse cases of killings in other parts of the world because the laws are not being enforced,” he continued.

Meanwhile, detained Sen. Leila de Lima vowed to again push for the enactment of a measure intended to protect human rights workers from threats and harassment in the 18th Congress.

“I find it important that we pass a measure protecting human rights defenders, especially after the recent incidences of killings involving them, which proves that their work has become extremely dangerous,” De Lima said in a handwritten dispatch from her detention cell at Camp Crame.

The Geneva, Switzerland-based UN Human Rights Council will assemble again for a three-week session beginning June 24.

Despite the international criticism against the President’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, the Philippines was reelected for a fresh three-year term in the council beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

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TAGS: Agnes Callamard, drug war killings, Leni Robredo, UN rights experts, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
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